Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: June edition

The picture for this post is of the book haul Handsome and I brought home from our county library book sale– which is “The Event of the Year” as far as anyone down here is concerned.

Articles

I’m a big fan of the Washington Post— I read it fairly consistently, and I love that they run pieces like “For the poor in the Ivy League, a full ride isn’t always what they imagined” by Nick Anderson fairly often. This one was especially good because it puts to bed the tired argument that minority/poor students can just “get scholarships” to solve their problems. Sure, you might have your tuition covered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can buy food, or textbooks. Heaven forbid you want to major in a STEM field, where the textbooks are constantly updated and can cost hundreds of dollars.

I’ve been reading the blog-zine Women in Theology for several years, and I recommend them in general– they’re one of the reasons why I’m going to seminary. “A Reasonable Violence: Why the Third Way is the Worst Way” by Amaryah Shaye is a good example of the work they do. I’ve shared my own opinion on the “Third Way” perspective before, and Amaryah’s argument, I believe, is incredibly compelling. I kept wanting to grab a few pullquotes, but all of it is just too good.

My friend and colleague, Sarah Jones, wrote “The Strange Story of Sewanee, the KKK, and a Franklin County Gay/Straight Alliance” for Scalawag and it’s fully worth a read. bell hooks first coined the phrase white supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy — and while it’s certainly a mouthful, it elucidates the reality we all unthinkingly live in: that misogyny, racism, homophobia are all tied up in each other. Each oppressive system perpetuates the others.

This is Why we have Women-Only Spaces, and I Don’t Want to Hear Your Complaints” by Clementine Ford wrestles with the impossible-to-meet demands women face that constantly contradict each other. I think the thesis of her piece is here:

The only conclusion I’ve been able to draw from this is that women, despite being constantly told what we MUST do to avoid danger, are actually not allowed to be in control of what those preventative actions might look like.

Bust can be a hit-or-miss feminist magazine for me, just like Jezebel and a few others– but “Why ADHD is a Feminist Issue and What Happens when its Overlooked” by S.B. Casteñeda is short, but excellent, and is a good introduction to this issue. Girls also tend to be under-diagnosed for a lot of things, like autism, and we need to keep demanding that the medical establishment corrects its misogynistic bias.

The Reluctant Memoirist” by Suki Kim is probably one of the best things I’ve read this month. She’s an investigative reporter, but yet when she tried to share her investigative journalism on North Korea — one of the most badass things I’ve ever heard of — it got billed as “memoir.” Argh gablargh. Anyway, you should read it. She’s a lot more eloquent than “argh gablargh.”

Bitch magazine, unlike Bust or Jezebel, is a publication I have a lot of respect for. When I saw that Kameron Hurley– one of my favorite authors– seriously, go read The Mirror Empire right now–had written “In Defense of Unlikable Women” for them I squeed. It’s one of the essays from her book The Geek Feminist Revolution which I’m going to buy as soon as I’m able. Two of her women characters in Mirror Empire are everything she’s arguing for in this piece, and they’re some of the best-written “unlikable women” I’ve ever encountered in literature. If you think I’m trying to get y’all to become Kameron Hurley fans– you’re right.

Books

As I mentioned above, I brought home a literal trunk-full of books from our library’s book sale, and I’ve been tearing through them. I picked up The Magician’s Apprentice by Trudi Canavan and enjoyed it so much I bought her other two trilogies in the same universe– The Black Magician trilogy and the Traitor Spy trilogy. She has an interesting plotting style, and I enjoyed the pacing of her books. Traitor Spy has a bisexual woman and a lesbian as two of the main characters, and they get a happy ending. No Bury Your Gays here. Black Magician has a side-ish/main-ish character who realizes he’s gay toward the end, and he become a main character in Traitor Spy, and wheeee I’m so happy when I read books that resonate with my lived experiences. Made me realize how tiring it can be to read about exclusively straight characters the rest of the time.

I also grabbed all of Karen Miller’s books from the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker universe. She’s a genuinely good fantasy writer, and I’m really enjoying them, but I do have one complaint: in a world where the main religious icon is a woman, you’d think there’d be other women in the books. There’s four women total in The Awakened Mage. Innkeepers, servants, stable hands, secretaries, guildmasters, guards, teachers … they are all men. The only exception is the queen, the princess, one woman who shows up for a few pages during a court hearing, and the main character’s friend. It’s frustrating that even in a fantasy novel written by a woman, the male gender is treated as the default.

I also read The Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop in basically a single sitting because I’m a complete sucker for books written about insanely powerful women; but, I will warn you that while the second two books are decently entertaining, there is a lot of sexual violence in the first book– Daughter of the Blood. And I mean a lot– against women and men and the main character, who’s a child in the first book. It’s a complicated system to explain, but there’s a lot of gender essentialism and then there’s the interesting little factoid that a woman can be “broken” on her “Virgin Night” and lose her magical powers. The same is not true of men, although I think this might have been Anne’s attempt to balance out the fact that women tend to be magically stronger than the men. But …  bleh. Anyway, truly entertaining books and I liked how they referenced vampires and gargoyles without specifically invoking those archetypes … but yeah. Complicated feelings. The next two books respond to the sexual violence the main characters endured delicately and appropriately– Anne doesn’t ignore the trauma or its consequences, and there’s an organic healing process, but, like I said … it’s complicated.

I also read the Selection series by Kiera Cass, which is in that young-adult dystopian genre with the interesting twist that it’s about royalty. Again, I’m a sucker for princess-themed books, so I read them all. Not the best in the genre I’ve read, but cute. There’s four books and I think it probably should have just been two, but I understand the rationale of stretching it out a bit for younger readers.

***

I’m throwing a barbecue this weekend that I’m very excited about– hence why you’re getting a “stuff I’ve been into” post. I wish everyone a very jolly weekend, and if you’re an American citizen, happy Independence Day!

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  • Kitrona ✪

    THANK YOU. I was diagnosed with ADHD as a teenager, but that diagnosis was thrown out because I was put on the wrong meds. I only recently (at 37) figured out that it was the correct diagnosis and started getting treatment…. after my son was diagnosed and I did research on the condition. I used to have the hyperactivity, but like the article says, that’s frowned upon in girls, so I subsumed the hyperactivity into reading and general fidgeting. But that didn’t mean it went away; I had a lot of struggles with schoolwork and jobs, and even now things aren’t perfect by any means, but they’re better with medication and therapy.

  • Jackalope

    That picture makes me so HAPPY! I’ve been spending my money on things that aren’t books recently (I just got some new bookshelves, but my house is still pretty full of books), but I’ve been loving the Little Free Libraries springing up like mushrooms after the rain in my neighborhood. It’s great to get a book for FREE, read it, then give it back, but without a checkout period like a regular library. Not to mention being able to donate my books that I don’t want any more so I don’t have to worry about finding them a new home. It’s FREE, so there’s always someone to take them.

  • KellyLynne

    I love the Black Jewels series, and I think you’re right—“complicated” is a good word for it. The gender essentialism irritates me. In fantasy, I can’t always tell whether things like gender essentialism represent the author’s actual views, or are just ideas they’re playing with in a particular world, but “Women are extremely badass, but also really vulnerable, and it’s men’s job to protect them,” seems to be a recurring theme with Anne Bishop.

  • Jackalope

    Upon further thought, one of the things that struck me about the ADHD piece is that much of the refusal to take this condition seriously (for either gender) is a backlash against the recent overdiagnosing that has been going on and the overdependence on medicating children who may have ADHD or may just be active. Along with taking female ADHD cases seriously (and as someone who had a close female family member with ADD [not hyperactive], I can say that it was a real issue and struggle), I wonder if there’s a way to try a different route. Maybe one that’s not putting children on medication right away but also not ruling it out either. Maybe there are other things that can be done too.

    • Kitrona ✪

      Neither of those things are true. There is no overdiagnosing or overmedicating. http://www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/About-ADHD/Myths-and-Misunderstandings.aspx#myth3 Those myths are harmful and contribute to the stigma of having ADHD. ADHD is much more than “just being active”. There are non-medication-based options, but they have limited success and are very rigid; medication has been found to have the best outcomes.

      Please do some reading and research rather than spreading these harmful myths.

      • Jackalope

        Part of my own personal bias on this is showing, I will confess. While I wouldn’t try to push this on anyone else (except perhaps people close to me who have asked for my opinion), in general I’m a fan of as little dependence on medications as is possible, especially with chronic issues where taking the medication will be ongoing for many years. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t, and again, I’m not going to be telling people to just go off their medications. But what I’ve seen is that it’s so easy to prescribe a pill instead of looking for other solutions, even though pretty much every medication from acetamenophen up has some sort of side effects if you take it enough. So I tend to be on the side of trying everything else first unless it’s an emergency. Also, adding to that my anecdotal experience (which you have no reason to believe, but for me it was convincing), everyone I’ve known with ADHD that has discussed medications with me (not with me asking, but with them bringing it up) has mentioned how much they *hated* them and got off them as soon as possible. So that has led me to my above conclusions as well.

        I didn’t mean to imply that ADHD is the same as being active; it’s just that on many occasions I’ve heard someone watching an active, playful child, who has normal levels of activity, say, “That child must have ADHD!” Sometimes with, “There are meds for that, you know.” So at least casually, it seems like that’s the first thing many people think of with children that are active and energetic.

        • I have friends and family with ADHD, and the impression I’ve gotten from them is that they prefer not to be on medication– not that over-prescribing is a thing (it’s not, if anything it’s under-prescribed). They take the medication when necessary, which they determine for themselves, and something they’re flexible about over time. But, otherwise, they tend to try to manage their ADHD through things like meditation (which has been helpful for one family member) or exercise, etc.

        • Kitrona ✪

          Everyone I’ve known with ADHD that was on meds, myself included, felt a significant sense of *relief* when the meds started working. Given that everyone who has discussed medications with you hated them, that sounds pretty self-selecting; I can only guess that the people who were happy with their medication didn’t talk about it.

          Again, please, do some reading about this subject. You have a lot of assumptions in your post, based on anecdotes. The previous link is a good source, as they cite their sources, which are mainly, if not exclusively, papers in known, reputable scientific journals.

          I’ve not heard that casual linking of normal levels of activity with ADHD; I believe that you have. And, I mean, it’s great that you’re against medication, but that’s really kind of a privilege you have. If I want to be functional, I need medication. I’m aware of the side effects, but as with any medication, it’s a balancing act between the side effects and the wanted effects. My quality of life has improved immensely with meds; my depression is miles better and I can function, and I’m actually getting somewhere in therapy. I’ve done my research; I understand how ADHD works, what parts of the brain the various types of medications work on, and why they do what they do. To have someone casually dismiss medications as the “easy” way… it’s kind of infuriating. Meds make it /possible/ for me to be functional. I still have to do the work, but I’m not at as severe a disadvantage. It’s like the difference between using a cane and not; the cane helps, but I still have to do the walking, it’s just easier with a cane because I’m normally at a disadvantage.

          • Jackalope

            I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to just dismiss medication as the “easy” way out. I do get frustrated with doctors who are so caught up in their traditional way of doing things that they just prescribe medications without looking at other options (I’ve had times when I’ve gone to the doctor and they tried to find a pill, any pill, and I wanted to say, “If this doesn’t need meds, I’m okay with that!”). I didn’t mean to imply that you were just casually deciding to take medication without thinking through other options.

            I actually have a different guess as to why people had such a bad experience (you can always chime back in to disagree if you think I’m wrong). The people I’ve talked with were mostly telling me about experiences when they were much younger; it is entirely possible that useful meds, good dosages, etc. have been tweaked more since that time and now they’re more effective. I know that’s been the case with several other conditions, so it makes sense that it would be the case for ADHD as well.

            As far as my beliefs on medication being a privilege… It’s true that I don’t have ADHD, but I do have other chronic issues, one of them being depression, which is another condition where the use of medication is controversial. So far I’ve chosen to limp along without trying meds; I’ve thought through the pros and cons on that and have decided that at least as long as I am able to drag myself to work every day I will keep trying it without medication for various reasons. So it’s not a decision that’s cost-free for me.

          • Beroli

            I’ve seen this from both angles, myself–people who know from previous experience that a specific medicine will fix their current problem and do nothing beyond that, who can’t get it because the doctor “doesn’t believe in pills,” and on the flip side, doctors who rush to hand out, in vast quantities, pills with really nasty side effects they don’t mention.

          • Kitrona ✪

            Medications for ADHD have improved by leaps and bounds, definitely. Still not perfect, but progress is good.

            I am in favor of appropriate and thoughtful medication. To me, quality of life is as important as continuation of life, and the correct medication can help improve quality of life. On a personal level, I survived not being medicated for depression and ADHD, but those years feel wasted to me because I couldn’t engage with anything and I was just going through the motions. Finding the right medication can be unpleasant, to understate the case, but even there, improvements are happening. (I’m very excited about this, actually; it’s what I’m going to school to be able to work on.) Personalized medicine is becoming more refined, and at this point I predict it will be a decade or so until doctors can use a patient’s genetic information to narrow down medication choices to those that are more likely to be effective with the least side effects, reducing the amount of time it takes to find a medication that works /and/ improves quality of life.

          • Margaret N

            Thank you for the comparison to using a cane. I have been grumbling about my father -in-law’s resistance to using a cane/walker/wheelchair. Why can’t he see that it’s not a sign of “giving up.” It’s a sign of using the tools you need to keep going and not give up! Your comment makes me realize that I am doing the same thing with my meds. I have increased the amount but am not yet fully functional.

          • Kitrona ✪

            Yeah, I’ve had some of those instances myself. “You’re doing this thing that annoys me!” *moment of thought* “Oh. Right. I’m doing that thing with something else.”
            🙂

  • Kevin

    It’s quite long, so it will take a while, but I just started Journey to the West, a Ming-dynasty era novel about a Buddhist monk’s journey to obtain sutras(sacred Buddhist texts). This is one of the Four Great Novels of Chinese Literature.
    Also on my own blog ( https://seekeroftruthweb.wordpress.com ) I’m doing a review of The Power of Mindful Learning by Dr. Ellen J. Langer

  • Timothy Swanson

    I found Cultural Literacy to be a fascinating book. While undoubtedly skewing the usual white mid/upper class, and old (well, the author isn’t a spring chicken), it isn’t a bad summary of the common ground shared by “mainstream” educated culture.

    I also note that you are a fellow library sale addict. My wife and I have had to limit ourselves primarily to hardbacks, otherwise, we would have to kick a few kids out of their rooms to fit the books. And I’m not entirely kidding 😉